I’m driving across the country.
My dad and I have trekked over 1,700 miles over 3 days in my little, charcoal, Chevy cruise. The backseat looks like a game of Tetris and and the trunk is precariously filled with golf clubs, a Playstation, and whatever else I didn’t want at my feet. My dad does most of the driving; we tried to swap spots but he was subpar at updating my creative Snapchat creations (everyone tune in!).
We’re a good team; he’s calm, rational, and a good driver with great stamina. I’m easily excited, talkative, and good at googling car-ride games while preaching about my “social justice warrior” passions (our latest interest: food deserts). My mom tried to have us keep a journal, but my dad’s inner pilot decided that our journal is our “log book” where we track mileage, keep receipts, and time stamp all of our arrivals and departures.
I am, however, giving each state a superlative; a one liner that sums up the most memorable element of a seemingly endless car-ride. So:
Arizona: Best Sunset.
I was not, however, ever supposed to see the Arizona sunset. Somewhere between Phoenix and Flagstaff, a wildfire decided to erupt and lock us in dead stop traffic. So, I sat barefoot and cross legged on the roof of my car for three hours, feeling like a flower child. It was because of this little, cute, three hour delay that we ended up seeing the electric pink AZ sunset that arched over the mountains. So thanks @wildfire, I guess.
New Mexico: Most Unexpected
I expected dry, red, rocks and whatever visuals High School Musical subtly incorporated into my perception of the state. Though I believe we drove through the red mountains at night, my experience of New Mexico was rolling, brown hills and ultra-small towns. The isolation was oppressive and when we finally reached Gallup for a quick pitstop, we were greeted with what appeared to be an extremely under-privileged and under-cared for Native American community that left me feeling exceptionally guilty as I drove away in my white-privilege vehicle. I wish they knew I felt the deep guilt and the yearning to be their ally and accomplice (where are all my American Studies friends).
Texas: Best Drive
I had never been out of a Texas airport, but my Texas experience was everything the overzealous residents brag about and more. Highlights include: Taya the waitress who has never left Amarillo and delivered my sweet tea (I audibly laughed when she greeted me with y’all and ma’am), the expansive sky and killer country stations, and the woman who called 95.7 to ask why the government *chooses* the highway as the official “Deer Crossing Zones” if so many people end up hitting the deer. She suggested that the deer crossing zones be redirected to less populated areas (I do not make this up – Politico Fact Checked).
Oklahoma: Most Quaint
My SMC pal Adele Edmonds has always raved about Oklahoma City, her awesome family and gorgeous, historic home. Even though Adele was not home, her family opened their doors (literally) with loving arms to give us a quick 20 min tour (I can pass along the history if anyone would like further details) and the best restaurant and ice cream suggestions. OKC, you exceeded expectations!
Arkansas: Most Religious
My dad and I counted 8 churches/places of worship in our first twenty minutes across the state border. I guess this might feed into the state stereotype, and I was hoping to counteract that, but the religious presence was definitely there. (No Duggar sightings either #sad).
Tennesse: To Be Determined (award cannot be granted until we hit Nashville and Knoxville.)
We just arrived in Memphis and ate some killer brisket and rockin ribs. While waiting for our table, we talked with a man who has lived in Little Rock his entire life and hates all Unions and says they plague the manufacturing field. His viewed varied from my own (to say the least), but this was his experience of America and I had to accept that it is just as valid as my own. I had never met anyone like him – with his thick southern drawl and Arkansas-ian roots. Our conversation, however, was one of the most civil and beneficial political conversations I have had in a long time.
As an American Studies major, it is extremely cool to meet all the walks of life that make up our one, giant country. I am learning to(kind of) love the “fly-over-states,” to cherish the 3,000 mile journey, and see the value in “all kinds of kinds.”